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HIS SORROWS NOT FICTITIOUS.
the volume. We cannot maintain our accustomed, tone of levity, or even speak like calm literary judges, in the midst of these agonizing traces of a wounded and distempered spirit. Even our admiration is at last swallowed up in a most painful feeling of pity and of wonder. It is impossible to mistake these for fictitious sorrows, conjured up for the purpose of poetical effect. There is a dreadful tone of sincerity, and an energy that cannot be counterfeited, in the expression of wretchedness and alienation from human kind, which occurs in every page of this publication; and as the author has at last spoken out in his own person, and unbosomed his griefs a great deal too freely to his readers, the offence now would be to entertain a doubt of their reality. We certainly have no hope of preaching him into philanthropy and cheerfulness; but it is impossible not to mourn over such a catastrophe of such a mind; or to see the prodigal gifts of Nature, Fortune, and Fame, thus turned to bitterness, without an oppressive feeling of impatience, mortification and surprise. Where there are such elements, however, it is equally impossible to despair that they may yet enter into happier combinations, or not to hope that "this puissant spirit"
"yet shall re-ascend Self-raised, and repossess its native seat."
MOORE'S LALLA ROOKH.
Lalla Rookh; an Oriental Romance. By THOMAS MOORE. 4to. pp. 405. London, 1817.
THERE is a great deal of our recent poetry derived from the East: But this is the finest Orientalism we have had yet. The land of the Sun has never shone out so brightly on the children of the North-nor the sweets of Asia been poured forth, nor her gorgeousness displayed so profusely to the delighted senses of Europe. The beauteous forms, the dazzling splendours, the breathing odours of the East, seem at last to have found a kindred poet in that Green Isle of the West; whose Genius has long been suspected to be derived from a warmer clime, and now wantons and luxuriates in those voluptuous regions, as if it felt that it had at length regained its native element. It is amazing, indeed, how much at home Mr. Moore seems to be in India, Persia, aud Arabia; and how purely and strictly Asiatic all the colouring and imagery of his book appears. He is thoroughly embued with the character of the scenes to which he transports us; and yet the extent of his knowledge is less wonderful than the dexterity and apparent facility with which he has turned it to account, in the elucidation and embellishment of his poetry. There is not, in the volume now before us, a simile or description, a name, a trait of history, or allusion of romance which belongs to European experience; or does not indicate an entire familiarity with the life, the dead nature, and the learning of the East. Nor are these barbaric ornaments thinly scattered to make up a show. They are showered lavishly over all the work; and form, perhaps, too much, the staple of the poetry — and the riches of that which is chiefly distinguished for its richness.
We would confine this remark, however, to the de
RATHER TOO BRILLIANT.
scriptions of external objects, and the allusions to literature and history-or to what may be termed the materiel of the poetry before us. The Characters and
Sentiments are of a different order. They cannot, indeed, be said to be copies of European nature; but they are still less like that any of other region. They are, in truth, poetical imaginations; but it is to the poetry of rational, honourable, considerate, and humane Europe, that they belong- and not to the childishness, cruelty, and profligacy of Asia. It may seem a harsh and presumptuous sentence, to some of our Cosmopolite readers: But from all we have been able to gather from history or recent observation, we should be inclined to say that there was no sound sense, firmness of purpose, or principled goodness, except among the natives of Europe, and their genuine descendants.
There is something very extraordinary, we think, in the work before us and something which indicates in the author, not only a great exuberance of talent, but a very singular constitution of genius. While it is more splendid in imagery-(and for the most part in very good taste)-more rich in sparkling thoughts and original conceptions, and more full indeed of exquisite pictures, both of all sorts of beauties and virtues, and all sorts of sufferings and crimes, than any other poem that has yet come before us; we rather think we speak the sense of most readers when we add, that the effect of the whole is to mingle a certain feeling of disappointment with that of admiration! to excite admiration rather than any warmer sentiment of delight -to dazzle, more than to enchant - and, in the end, more frequently to startle the fancy, and fatigue the attention, by the constant succession of glittering images and high-strained emotions, than to maintain a rising interest, or win a growing sympathy, by a less profuse or more systematic display of attractions.
The style is, on the whole, rather diffuse, and too unvaried in its character. But its greatest fault, in our eyes, is the uniformity of its brilliancy- the want of plainness, simplicity and repose. We have heard it
472 LALLA ROOKH-WANTS UNITY AND REPOSE.
observed, by some very zealous admirers of Mr. Moore's genius, that you cannot open this book without finding a cluster of beauties in every page. Now, this is only another way of expressing what we think its greatest defect. No work, consisting of many pages, should have detached and distinguishable beauties in every one of them. No great work, indeed, should have many beauties: If it were perfect, it would have but one; and that but faintly perceptible, except on a view of the whole. Look, for example, at what is perhaps the most finished and exquisite production of human art- the design and elevation of a Grecian temple, in its old severe simplicity. What penury of ornament - what rejection of beauties of detail! what masses of plain surface-what rigid economical limitation to the useful and the necessary! The cottage of a peasant is scarcely more simple in its structure, and has not fewer parts that are superfluous. Yet what grandeur - what elegance-what grace and completeness in the effect! The whole is beautifulbecause the beauty is in the whole: But there is little merit in any of the parts, except that of fitness and careful finishing. Contrast this, now, with a Dutch pleasure-house, or a Chinese-where every part is meant to be separately beautiful- and the result is deformity! where there is not an inch of the surface that is not brilliant with varied colour, and rough with curves and angles,-and where the effect of the whole is monstrous and offensive. We are as far as possible from meaning to insinuate that Mr. Moore's poetry is of this description. On the contrary, we think his ornaments are, for the most part, truly and exquisitely beautiful; and the general design of his pieces very elegant and ingenious: All that we mean to say is, that there is too much ornament - too many insulated and independent beauties and that the notice, and the very admiration they excite, hurt the interest of the general design; and not only withdraw our attention too importunately from it, but at last weary it out with their perpetual
It seems to be a law of our intellectual constitution,
EMBARRAS DES RICHESSES.
that the powers of taste cannot be permanently gratified, except by some sustained or continuous emotion; and that a series, even of the most agreeable excitements, soon ceases, if broken and disconnected, to give any pleasure. No conversation fatigues so soon as that which is made up of points and epigrams; and the accomplished rhetorician, who
could not ope
His mouth, but out there flew a trope."
must have been a most intolerable companion. There are some things, too, that seem so plainly intended for ornaments and seasonings only, that they are only agreeable, when sprinkled in moderation over a plainer medium. No one would like to make an entire meal on sauce piquante; or to appear in a dress crusted over with diamonds; or to pass a day in a steam of rich distilled perfumes. It is the same with the glittering ornaments of poetry - with splendid metaphors and ingenious allusions, and all the figures of speech and of thought that constitute its outward pomp and glory. Now, Mr. Moore, it appears to us, is decidedly too lavish of his gems and sweets; he labours under a plethora of wit and imagination - impairs his credit by the palpable exuberance of his possessions, and would be richer with half his wealth. His works are not only of costly material and graceful design, but they are everywhere glistening with small beauties and transitory inspirations - sudden flashes of fancy, that blaze out and perish; like eath-born meteors shat crackle in the lower sky, and unseasonably divert our eyes from the great and lofty bodies which pursue their harmonious courses in a serener region.
We have spoken of these as faults of style: but they could scarcely have existed in the style, without going deeper; and though they first strike us as qualities of the composition only, we find, upon a little reflection, that the same general character belongs to the fable, the characters, and the sentiments, — that they all sin alike in the excess of their means of attraction, — and fail to interest, chiefly by being too interesting.